Category Archives: Alumni

Taste of Foster: The Business of Wine

Taste of Foster panelists
From left to right: John Blair (Dunham Cellars), Angela Jacobs (WineGirl Wines), Bryan Maletis (Fat Cork), and Paul Zitarelli (Full Pull Wines)

Whether it’s tech, aerospace, or retail, Foster alums are often at the forefront of innovation and entrepreneurship. And in Washington’s wine industry, things are no different. With a focus on the business side of winemaking, the second annual Taste of Foster played host to a panel of four Foster alumni making waves in the burgeoning Pacific Northwest wine scene. Facilitated by Full Pull Wines owner/wine blogger Paul Zitarelli (MBA 2009), the panel included John Blair (MBA 2011), General Manager for Dunham Cellars, Angela Jacobs (MBA 2010), owner and winemaker for WineGirl Wines, and Bryan Maletis (EMBA 2010), owner of Fat Cork. Over the course of the evening, event attendees got to know a bit more about the panelists, their products, and their views on Washington’s growing wine industry. Below are a few highlights from the discussion.

Why do you think MBA’s aren’t well represented in the wine industry?
For John Blair, size is the issue. “A lot of wineries can’t afford to hire an MBA…I see that changing.” Bryan Maletis agreed with John, stating, “The big companies are getting bigger and there are more small startups. The big companies will be hiring MBAs.” Maletis also argued that more flexibility in state law will positively effect the number of MBAs in the wine business, especially when it comes to creating more direct-to-consumer experiences.

What are some misconceptions about the wine industry?
Be wary of over-romanticizing vineyard life says Angela Jacobs. “Living on a vineyard sounds fantastic,” she quipped, “but there’s frost in the winter and bugs in the summer. It’s amazing and rewarding but it’s not easy.” For John, it’s important to remember that a product is being sold. “It’s still a business,” he said, “a competitive business. I tell people when they go out to the grocery store that there isn’t a shelf more competitive that wine.”

Taste of Foster attendees

Advice for someone interested in getting involved in the wine industry?
Bryan advises those looking for a well-rounded sense of the wine business to set up informational interviews. “The most successful candidates ask to be connected with more people.” Drawing from his own experiences, Paul agreed, stating, “I definitely asked for more informational interviews.”

Looking toward the future, where do you see the Washington industry?
Pointing to the recent purchase of Columbia Winery by a California distributor and the success of Woodinville’s Chateau St. Michelle, John responded, “I think the sky’s the limit.” Angela agreed, stating, “Our market is not even close to saturation. It makes it possible for people like me to start a small winery.”

How do you maintain the balance between the heart and business of wine?
“I don’t think there is a balance,” said Jacobs semi-jokingly. “It’s an art, a science, and a business.”

See more photos of Taste of Foster: The Business of Wine on the Foster GOLD Facebook page. To be notified of upcoming alumni events, be sure to subscribe to the Foster Alumni event calendar.

Celebrating 45 years of Executive Development

On Thursday, March 5, 2015, the Executive Development Program (EDP) at the Foster School of Business celebrated 45 years of advanced business education. Alumni representing over 40 organizations attended the event, from established companies like Microsoft, Nordstrom, and Boeing, to numerous startups created by Seattle entrepreneurs.

Founded in 1970, under the name “The Management Program,” EDP is designed to help individuals improve their understanding of the big picture of business. The program begins and ends with strategy and touches on every aspect of business in between. “It tells you how all these things fit together,” said Professor Charles Hill.

At the event, Dean Jim Jiambalvo talked about how the program had a major impact on the Foster school, specifically the quality of the faculty. “Executives have a higher standard, and they drove us to meet those standards,” Jiambalvo said. Often, executives enrolled in EDP want to know how to immediately apply what they just learned. “It impacted my teaching for a long time,” said Jiambalvo.

Bill Ayer discusses leadershipBill Ayer, former Alaska Airlines CEO and a long supporter of the Foster School, provided a keynote address on leadership, sharing numerous lessons and pieces of advice as he talked about his experience in a challenging industry. Among the numerous takeaways of the speech, Ayer discussed the primacy of the customer, as well as the importance of decisive action: “The perfect plan will never be perfect,” he said.

Over the course of the keynote, Ayer listed eight lessons he wanted to pass on to other executives:

  1. Get the right people on board
  2. Create a sense of urgency
  3. Focus on one to two big ideas at a time
  4. Always have metrics, what you measure is what gets done
  5. Focus on what you can control over the long-term
  6. Be totally and completely customer focused
  7. Don’t confuse being popular with doing the right thing
  8. Develop strategic partnerships

Mamtha Banerjee shares her experienceThe evening ended with an invitation for EDP alumni to share their experiences about the program. One alumna, Mamtha Banerjee, founder and CEO of MagicFlix, talked about how EDP helped her become more than a technical expert, giving her the business skills to take part in strategy and decision making. “The best part was really the case studies—getting everyone’s point of view from different industries,” Banerjee said.

Working abroad leads to freedom in the job market

Guest post by Nathan Bright (BA 2014)

Nathan Bright at the University of ManizalesMy name is Nathan Bright and I graduated from the Foster School and the CISB Program in March 2014 with a general business degree and Spanish minor. During my time at UW, I was able to study abroad in Spain and travel around Asia, so I knew when I graduated I wanted to find opportunities to work abroad and travel. I was lucky enough to be offered a position in Spain teaching English as well as a position in Colombia working at a university teaching business. I chose to move to South America because I wanted to experience a new country and continent and was excited about the opportunity to teach business and speak Spanish at work.

My original contract at the University of Manizales was for six months, but my coworkers and bosses were so happy to have me that I was able to extend my contract to a year. One thing I really enjoy about the job is the amount of freedom I have to design my own projects and work with professors to develop programs that are interesting to both the faculty and students. I also have the opportunity to speak English and Spanish while teaching business courses and work with students and professors in class and outside of the University during separately organized events. Working abroad has given me much more freedom in the job market because I would have never had the opportunity to be a professor or design my own projects if I had found a similar entry-level position in the US.

The CISB Program did a great job preparing me for this opportunity. We studied a wide variety of cultural experiences and had a lot of opportunities to work in real-life business contexts, which gave me the skills and knowledge required to live and work in a foreign country.

Because companies in other countries are often excited to have the opportunity to work with foreigners who are passionate and well-educated, there are plenty of ways to enter the job market in a different country. If you wish to contact me about my experiences abroad, email me at natebright01(at)gmail.com.

Foster on Tap: An alumni happy hour

This blog post was written by Alex Andreotti, Foster’s Assistant Director of Events.

On Feb. 26, Foster alumni gathered at Palomino Rustico in Bellevue for the year’s first installment of Foster on Tap, the newly renamed alumni happy hours. Alumni across graduation years and degree programs gathered to network, reconnect and swap stories of their adventures post Foster. During the event, we asked attendees to tell us the most useful thing they learned at the Foster School. This is what some of them had to say:

“Numbers tell half the story; always look at them closely.”

“Social interactions are just as useful as coursework when building a career.”

“Collaboration with peers. All of those group projects helped me learn more about personality and team dynamics.”

“Negotiation is joint decision making.”

“A holistic overview of different aspects of business.”

“Got to know many classmates from other countries.”

“Timing is everything. Sometimes you need to wait, other times you need to rush.”

See a few photos from the event below. More photos can be seen on the Foster GOLD Facebook page.

Foster alums
Foster alums
Foster alums

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See upcoming alumni events here.

Storyform is shaking up online storytelling

Sam Altman, the president of Y Combinator, says you should never s do a startup just to do one. “There are much easier ways to become rich,” he says, “and everyone who starts a startup always says that they couldn’t have imagined how hard and painful it was going to be. You should only start a startup if you feel compelled by a particular problem and think starting a company is the best way to solve it.”

It was this advice that led Rylan Hawkins (BS 2009) to leave his job at Microsoft in the summer of 2014 and start his own company. “I believe in a better online reading experience, and I’ve decided to go after it,” says Hawkins, now the co-founder and CEO of Storyform, a framework that allows publishers and photographers to share their stories online in more captivating ways.

Storyform BannerHawkins and his co-founder, Luke Clum, believe that the current state of online reading—static content, complex designs, distracting layouts, relentless popups—diminishes the stories that authors are trying to tell. With Storyform, publishers can create “immersive narratives” on their own domains that truly engage their readers. They’ve done away with distracting sidebars and replaced scrolling canvasses with full-screen magazine-style pages that feature eye-catching layouts and interactive elements like video. They’ve also discarded traditional web page advertising in favor of ads that are sleeker and better integrated. “Not only will readers be engaged with beautiful story content,” says Hawkins, “they’ll also find the ads beautiful.”

storyform-ogThough Storyform is not even a year old, Hawkins is no stranger to startups. “I had three startup experiences in college,” he says, referring to VibeGlobe (BPC 2009), a platform to help nonprofits raise money from younger donors; Visual Schedule Finder, a program that allowed UW students to search for the perfect class schedule; and YourSports, a startup that is still thriving in the hands of CEO Chris McCoy (read about it below!). Hawkins reflects on each of his early startups as great learning experiences that he can apply to Storyform, and those lessons-learned seem to be paying off. Storyform currently has 1,900 registered publishers in countries around the world (a number that is growing about 10 percent a week) and they have logged over 17,000 hours of user engagement.

So what’s next on the road to Storyform’s success? “We’re still very early-stage, so we’re bootstrapped right now,” says Hawkins, “but we’re preparing for a first round, learning the fundraising space and meeting with everyone we can.” In the meantime, Hawkins and Clum will keep working on what got them into the startup life in the first place: transforming the way stories are told.

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YourSports: connecting the world online through sports

March Madness is coming, and athletes, coaches, and fans all over the country are gearing up for another exciting season—the sweat, the competition, the glory! But Chris McCoy (BA 2011) is excited for another reason. March Madness 2015 will mark the public beta launch of a startup effort seven years in the making. YourSports is a new sports networking platform that aims to change the way people connect through sports online.

“Sports is the ultimate connector,” says McCoy, who started YourSports during his senior year at the University of Washington. “It has an inherent ability to build relationships at all levels—high school softball teammates, 2010 Winter Olympics competitors, 12th fans—but until now these relationships haven’t been collected online in a centralized location.”

YourSports Graph BTCSure, you can find fellow fans or your college soccer teammates on Facebook or Linkedin, but there’s a lot of chatter on those social platforms, and only a small portion of it is about sports. There’s also many mainstream sports media websites, but those don’t offer the personalization that comes with social networking sites. McCoy is banking on the belief that sports communities want a personalized dedicated sports experience.

McCoy explains that social platforms connect people by interest. “Think of it this way,” he says, “Facebook was student directory-meets-social network. Linkedin is resume-meets-social network. YourSports does the same with sports data. We’ve taken the most comprehensive historical and geographical sports data on the planet and gathered it online in one place to unite teams, athletes, fans, and influencers from all levels, throughout history, and around the world.”

YourSports - chris and russell wilson
McCoy (right) with Russell Wilson

YourSports currently employs about 20 people—mostly engineers and data scientists—in 9 cities, working to build out a platform based on millions of pieces of local and national data from 100+ years of sports history. They have already created 500,000+ profiles of athletes, schools, and sports venues, raised $1.7 million in angel investment, and have seen a steady stream of people joining (“in the low thousands”) since launching their private beta in 2012. McCoy has also recruited a strong board of advisors, including ESPN.com senior baseball writer Jerry Crasnick and Ward Bullard, former head of sports at Google+. After YourSports’ public launch during March Madness, McCoy will continue to work on the next step: monetizing YourSports using a commerce model that connects users with places and products recommended by their favorite athletes. “If we get it right,” says McCoy, “YourSports will become one of the most interesting sports marketing and commerce platforms on the planet.”

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Forty years of making a difference: Foster recognizes long-time supporter

Carol Batcheldor and Dean Jim Jiambalvo
Dean Jim Jiambalvo with Carol Batcheldor

This blog post was written by Alicia Fereday Hull, Philanthropy Officer for the Foster School. 

When Carol Batchelder (BA 1955) gave her most recent gift to the Foster School of Business, she hit an incredible milestone. She has been giving to the Foster Difference Fund each year for the past 40 years. Beyond her commitment to business education at the university, Carol has served on the UW Foundation Board, is an active member of Alpha Phi and often travels abroad with the UWAA. On January 21st, Dean Jim Jiambalvo took a moment to recognize Carol for her generous support. Thank you Carol, for helping to advance the Foster School to where it is today.

Consulting and Business Development Center recognizes outstanding alum

Guest post by Michael Verchot, director of the Consulting and Business Development Center.

Dan PetersonDan Peterson (MBA 1997) received the Consulting and Business Development Center’s inaugural Alumni of the Year Award in recognition of his 17 years of work with the Center. Dan’s first project with the Center was a competitive analysis for Uwajimaya. Immediately after graduation from the Foster School he became an Alumni Advisor where he guided undergraduate student consulting projects. He helped teams that worked with Four Seas Restaurant and the Theater Off Jackson in Seattle’s Chinatown/International District neighborhood. He then worked with Catfish Corner in Seattle’s Central Area, Oberto and Mutual Fish in the Rainier Valley, and Garlic Garden in Pike Place Market.

In the early days of the center, there weren’t enough student teams to meet the demand from small businesses. On multiple occasions Dan stepped in and served as a consultant on behalf of the center working with an auto detailing shop in the Central Area.

Dan and his wife Angie have also been generous donors to the Center. Every time that the Center has asked for financial support Dan and Angie have said yes. They were one of the first donors to the Center’s endowment that will sustain the student consulting projects and he continues to support the center’s effort to build a self-sustaining funding base to insure its longtime financial health and its ability to serve students and businesses in under-served communities.

We’re honored to recognize Dan as a role model for how alumni and other business people can use their business skills to simultaneously improve student learning while growing jobs in under-served community.

The “King of Cruise”

Stan-McDonaldFoster School alumnus Stanley McDonald—known as the “King of Cruise”—has died at the age of 94.

McDonald graduated from the University of Washington in 1943 with a business  degree and a manifest entrepreneurial spirit. Though his resume includes the building of successful  real estate and construction businesses, he was best known as the founding father of the American cruise ship industry. His novel idea of using a cruise ship as floating hotel to serve tourists arriving for Seattle’s 1962 World’s Fair turned into Princess Cruise Lines—a pioneering company that perhaps most famously served as seafaring set of the long-running television series “The Love Boat.”

For his many contributions to the Northwest economy, McDonald received the Foster School’s Alumni Leadership Award in 2004.

According to the Seattle Times, McDonald’s family has requested that gifts in his honor be directed to the Foster School or the Stellar Club at the Swedish Medical Center Foundation.